How The Hell Did We End Up Here?

The world of Sojourners in Shadow is a chaotic one to say the least. It has order in places, and many seek to impose their order on all, but so far none has come close. Factions, armies, sects, secret organisations, cults, nations, gangs, crews and elite squads are everywhere. Some formed by necessity, some by the charismatic will of a leader, and also some exist due to deep running ideologies. People are following the paths begun by their ancestors, laid out in blood and sweat. The way things are now is because of what went on before. The choices individuals and groups made over the centuries are scars of the face of the world. Plenty of people alive now have little knowledge of the past, and yet so many of them are living the way they are because of it.

What the world was like when the Shadow World came. What those in power did when it did. How the masses reacted when magic and monsters appeared among them. How they responded to the actions of their leaders. How nations interacted. How people were swayed one way, then another. How technology developed. How civilisation fell apart so that new ideas and new groups could take over. How those ideas and groups took shape. How and why some ideas and groups vanished and others remain to this day.

All of this is highly important when it comes to understanding the world of the present in Sojourners in Shadow. The people, the vast majority of them, cannot hope to know all this. As readers, I think it will help to get to know the basics.

The core divide in how a terrible event provokes reactions is that of how two sides respond. The two sides are those in power and those without power. Understanding this is key in going forward.

When the Shadow World was brought to ours by Dylan Winter, there were two main responses:

Governments = Holy shit, there’s monsters and weird magic everywhere! We have to do something!

People = Holy shit, there’s monsters and weird magic everywhere! Someone has to do something!

This was followed by:

Governments = We need strong measures. We need to be shown to be in charge and in control.

People = We need help now. We need for those in power to listen to us and if not, then to follow someone who will.

Obviously, this created a tug of war situation. The more people demanded change, the more governments felt the need to suppress that feeling. The more governments made moves to control their people, the more people sought something new. The more both sides pushed for the things they wanted, the more each side responded with stronger demands.

To be clear, this was happening before the Shadow World integrated with our own. With advances in technology and the world developing as it was, many nations were experiencing authorities who spied on their every move while at the same time the public continually found ways to express themselves. Foreign influences were sited as threats to national security. Uneven wealth distribution incited more and more anger. Trade deals between regimes were applauded by those who benefited and denounced by those who did not.

Figures emerged to exploit the growing tension, becoming political leaders or social champions. Revolutionary movements became more commonplace, even in democracies. Tyranny became a widely used accusation. Law and order were hailed, even when they took away rights. Free speech was the motto of numerous organisations, typically used to suit only their own agenda.

To so many, the struggle was a simple one, that between good and evil, right and wrong. Those people on the other side were all bad, hurting everyone else, and they deserved everything they got. We on this side are all good, living correctly, and we will win.

Yet in truth this was the ancient struggle the human race had always experienced, that of order versus chaos, control versus freedom, community versus individuality. Both sides believed they represented the majority and were doing what was best for them. Populist movements had the backing of most, it had to be said, and yet many were led by charismatic charlatans or ambitious megalomaniacs. The elitists countered with every facet of their authority, using media, law, even terror if they had to, clinging to power with all their might. They preached that they were the guardians of decency and equality, that they ran things so that everyone benefited, and breaking the system – whichever system that was being used – would only lead to anarchy and collapse. They convinced many to support them, bribed and coerced others to do so as well, and so across the globe the clash of elitism and populism became the foremost struggle.

Eventually this went beyond mere loose collective thinking. Organisations and groups formed, with clear identities and goals. Here are a few from each side:

Populist movements:

The Saints of Bushido

The Glorious Hedonists

The Movement for Renewal

The Peasants’ Revolt vs the People’s Rebellion vs the Socialist Renaissance

The Humanist League vs the Salvation of All Souls

 

Elitist movements/forces:

The Varangians

The People’s Judiciary

The Gendarmes

The Terracotta Army

A quick explanation about some of these groups. The Saints were people who believed in living a martial yet peaceful existence, based in the USA. By contrast, the Movement for Renewal was essentially a cult, calling upon the doom of humanity so that it could be reborn. The three revolutionary groups were left wing uprisings that ended up clashing with each other across Europe, Asia and Africa. As for the Humanists versus the All Souls, this was a conflict begun in verbal exchanges that led to violence. A meeting was held where humanists and atheists confronted religious leaders about the hysteria of their followers following the Shadow World’s arrival, and especially the persecutions it resulted in. Yet the religious entourage was attacked and killed. Naturally the non-believers were blamed and this unleashed a wave of fanatical fury around the world. It was dubbed the Harvest of the Heretics. After that, humanists had little choice but to become militant themselves.

As for the elitist groups, some were truly mass movements as well, often with a fascist viewpoint or existing to counter another ideology. Others were funded and commanded by establishments, sometimes encouraged to fight the populists, more typically paid to do so. The Terracotta Army was a genuine mobilisation of people, when government loyalists in China took to the streets, going so far as to claim they were the first emperor’s guards reborn. On the other end of the spectrum, the Varangians and the Gendarmes were paid enforcers. The latter were quite famous in their day, serving the Oligarchs of Central Europe. They were named after police and yet their sole purpose was to do the tasks the ordinary officers wouldn’t do. It was they who made the Fascista the most marketable gun in the world for a time. The M-33 Carbine was made in the USA yet it was once the Oligarchs equipped their enforcers with it and it performed so well that it was sought after by all oppressive regimes. Light, easy to use and aim, with a solid stock that did a fine job as a club, this weapon became the symbol for oppression everywhere. It earned the name the Fascista and that’s what people call it even now, despite the history behind it being forgotten by most.

I will go into more detail about how the world was doing and how it changed once the Shadow World was summoned another time. This is a general overview. Enough, I hope, to make the point clear. Seismic events were occurring. People were crying out for justice, while those who sat in judgement feared being overthrown. Some preached about the end of the world and many listened. Some demanded that advancements in technology became available to all and only a few agreed. Protests led to riots and those led to organised resistance. Countries were at each others’ throats and stabbing each other in the back, all in the name of progress. Some nations were led by tyrants, others by those who wished they were, and others yet by committees or congresses, which tried to appease all the angry voices. None succeeded.

The world was going mad and no one knew how to mend the ills. Perhaps it was too late. It could be claimed that the time to save humanity had long past, so there was only the struggle to see who would stand victorious among the ashes. Perhaps. No one will ever know. Dylan Winter, like so many, saw the world as needing a tumultuous change. Unlike them, he found the way to bring it about. When he did, when the sky darkened and magic began to take effect, when monsters came into being among humans, the world was a powder keg waiting to go off. He wasn’t the one to light the match. He lit his own bomb and dropped it. Every friction, every conflict, every fear and doubt and glare of hatred was swept up in this new maelstrom. People who wanted change found new power to make it happen. Those who attempted to restrain change were forced to adapt themselves or being destroyed. There was no going back. Normal was a thing of the past, and yet the desires and needs of people never went away. They found new form. People who believed the world had been about to end or called for a return to more primitive ways became aquatics. Others like them who though in terms of advancement were drawn to becoming cyborgs. Martial thinking found life in new armies, whether cyborg, mutant or human. Order collapsed, and yet pockets of it remained and was therefore easier to maintain. Change was happening, but rarely did it occur the way those who had sought it so passionately had wanted it to.

What is occurring in the world as I am developing it is far removed from the events I speak of here. I have no intention of writing stories about back then. But it is important to know, and to think through, the past of any world in order to understand what you are handling in the present. The world I possess is developing even as I write it, and yet the foundations for it were set in its past. People – whether human, monster, mutant or machine – are still fighting for survival, progress, ambition, their future. Most of what once had been is ruined or lost, but some parts linger, either in the persons of the Grand Master, Jamshid or Prime, who lived back then, or in automated death-machines programmed when brutal answers were needed. Secrets wait to be found. History might yet be told. What lies in the future for the people of the present could well be explained in their past.

The Order of Mechanised Tyranny

When you have faith in specific institutions, and that faith is ripped apart by cataclysmic events, how do you continue? Do you admit you were wrong and try a new path? Perhaps some would. That was not the course of the Grand Master, leader of the Order of Mechanised Tyranny. He is one of the oldest beings alive, having lived before the arrival of the Shadow World. He was a general in the army of the United States of America, and he had total faith in his country, its armed forces, and also in God. He knew his homeland was safe because of the deity he worshipped and the soldiers he commanded. When he witnessed the downfall of humanity, he saw his faith prove worthless. The armed forces could not overcome the magic and monsters that appeared. Soon they were outclassed by the creation of super-soldiers, cyborgs and other machines. As for God, there were no answers to the general’s prayers.

The general did win victories, however. When his forces were supplemented with super-soldiers and cyborgs, he was able to defeat a machine army. Power won the day, not faith, and certainly not humans. He saw the future in the cyborg race. More and more people were getting improvements – either soldiers for defence or the rich for better lives – and he demanded his forces become the main focus. He never took to mutants; perhaps there was still some lingering of his old faith in seeing them as abominations. Maybe. Few know the mind of this individual as he once was. What is known is mostly who he is and the sect he leads, the latter reflecting the first. The Grand Master forged the sect in his singular vision. He has never faltered since.

To return to his past, the general had lost faith in God and saw the only chance of survival for the human race was biomechanically improved soldiers. More than that, he saw humanity reborn, not just mechanised but forged within as well, moulded into a dedicated and dutiful force. No civilians, no politicians, no weaknesses. Cyborgs of all kinds were being made, and this was not something the general approved of. Control of the country had been sliding away for some time, the general had more recently been serving a new and localised government, so saw no issue in choosing to take command himself. Others had failed them all. He would not.

The general managed to get his soldiers altered, himself too, and they began their march to a new, stronger way of life. Others were made to join them. More and more became cyborgs, but more than this, they became soldiers who followed his orders and pledged themselves to his way of life. Obey, serve, fight, kill, die. Cyborgs began in one place and could have been a united race, yet factions emerged and then they splintered. The Grand Master and his aggressive, militarised sect were a major driving force in that disruption.

Yet the sect was more than military cyborgs. The Grand Master was not the only follower of faith to lose his way. Others in organised religion saw the Shadow World and the chaotic consequences as either end times, punishment or evidence that no higher power was protecting them. Many who once believed fervently became fervent enemies to faith. Those who saw the Grand Master’s sect recognised the anger he possessed and joined him, proclaiming their loyalty, pledging their enmity. More than this, a number of those who had commanded in religions now saw their power waning, and spotted opportunity in this sect. Preachers of faith turned into preachers of anti-faith. Militant believers were now militant disbelievers. The Grand Master was soon commanding much more than a mere army. He led a passionate, fanatical legion of soldiers.

It has been suggested that perhaps the Grand Master allowed these once-believers into his ranks to laugh at religion. An insult to God even. None know. Maybe he saw kindred spirits or merely useful tools. Whatever his reasoning, the Grand Master made a choice and his sect changed, and he saw the benefits. He had lost his faith in God, as well as his faith in humanity, his country, in the military as he had known it. All of it was gone. But he had pushed and remade his military might to become something stronger, and now he could remake the religion as well.

The Order of Mechanised Tyranny is a sect of conformity, with all the trappings of the military and religion. They march in step by ranks, crushing all opposition, converting those they choose to. They are religious yet without any god to waste their time on. Everyone is uniformed, to the extent that all are regarded as male. They all wear the same, including masks, and their swords are attached to their right arms regardless of favoured sides. Everything and everyone must act as one, as the Grand Master wishes it. His will is done, his vision is fought for. When he had been a God-fearing general, he had fancied he had a special destiny, or at least a favoured standing from which he could act for the good of all. His faith in God had been ripped away, but his faith in himself had faltered, then regrouped, and now was stronger than ever.

His followers believe in him equally, and also in his new way of life. Their religion is about their sect, their laws, their truths. For instance, they have Six Sins, which are disobedience, disloyalty, cowardice, dishonesty, slothfulness and mercy. Anything that could harm the sect is bad, essentially. They must all be dedicated and focused, working tirelessly, never doubting. Their Nine Virtues are courage, dedication, intelligence, purity, resolution, integrity, excellence, diligence and sacrifice. These may sound worthy virtues, and they are, and yet for the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, many of these words have a slight twist in meaning. For them, being resolute is about being ruthless. Integrity insists that when you proclaim your loyalty, you mean it, that your actions follow the same course. Sacrifice can mean soldiers giving up their lives for the sect, but also the ‘sacrifice’ of non-members as they are defeated. These lists are drilled into the minds of recruits, often during Recitals. There are three a day, every day, in any base or outpost around the world. Attendance is mandatory unless your services are necessitated elsewhere, such as guard duty. They do not pray, but they recite their laws and other mantras. Their faith in the sect must be absolute.

A quick mention should be made of their understanding of eternal life. This is something few outside the sect know of. Basically, all personal information goes into the sect’s database. All that individuality which is surrendered on joining, this is stored, and so is kept for all time. Members of the sect long dead are in there. They are remembered at Recitals as well. Past victories, and sometime defeats if useful for instruction, are recalled. The sense that the sect lives, and thus do all who live in it, is the new truth to them. Those born in the sect are given an identity as children, then taken away and stored, so they can believe equally. After that, they are just more ranked members, moving parts of the greater whole, fighting on. To the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, the saying is true – life is struggle, struggle is war, war is life. We are always at war. We live for ever.

Mentioning all of this, I must return to those previously mentioned fanatics who made the sect what it is, at the Grand Master’s behest. To outsiders, all members look the same and are the same really, and that is how he likes it. The truth is that there are some differences. Most are soldiers, with officers leading them. Yet some belong to other groups. One is the clergy. This is the result of those ex-religious, anti-faith recruits. The Grand Master utilised them and created a branch of his sect to fuel the rest with speeches and incitement. Soldiers who show enthusiasm along with eloquence are nominated to enter this group and, if successful, become as powerful as officers. Cardinals, for instance, act like roving high commanders, showing up to ensure unquestioning loyalty is ever present. In that regard, the clergy are part cheerleaders, part secret police.

Obey our law. Judge others according to it. Anything else is wrong. The meek are accursed, the strong will take the world. We are the strongest and the world is ours to claim. This is the Order of Mechanised Tyranny, a sect built and honed by the Grand Master himself, driven by his will, and it pleases him greatly. There is much more to be learned, about both the man himself and his followers, but for now, all anyone needs to know, is that when the red and black clad legions appear, make ready to fight for your life. They will not stop until they have it, one way or the other.

Rulers and Terrors of the Past

It goes without question that many beings have wanted to conquer. Not the world, at least not usually. Most beings who strive for greatness have been realistic enough to know that taking over the entire planet is ridiculous. Anyone who attempts it will bring every other powerful individual or group upon them. But carving out their own corner has been the aim of a number of great and terrible people. Some still do. The Demon King has his piece of territory outside of Trade Island. Gemini rule their domain in the Himalayas. The Author continues to reside in his fortress in the Ural Mountains. But many of those who ruled most fiercely are gone, brought down for another generation of rulers to climb up. Here are some of them, their names, titles and achievements, and what became of them, if it is known:

The Emperor of the Golden Throne ruled part of middle and southern Asia, with his headquarters set somewhere in what was once India. Who and what he was has been lost to time. His name still echoes in the region, however. He ruled wisely as well as sternly. According to legend, he had an aegis and a devil-beast as his right and left hand, enforcing his commands. How he managed that is unknown and highly in doubt by some. What is certain is that he had an elite force called the Excubitors, a small army of highly trained and superbly equipped individuals. This is known because they exist now as a mercenary outfit, better known as the Sentinels. They fight for pay by necessity, but they remember their glorious past and many fear they will rejoin the Emperor if he returns. After all, it isn’t certain that he is dead. What happened to him isn’t fully known, however it is clear his power was broken and his realm disintegrated without him. Most likely he is dead, either slain back then or fallen since, but his title has meaning to many, even now.

Lord Ogre was a huge human who strode the island of Great Britain for a time, head of a horde of fierce fighters. He waged war as much as he could, conquering through sheer strength, and terrorised many. He wasn’t a simplistic thug either. While not known as a master strategist, he roamed for some time and learned much. He was ended in a fight with a devil-beast, a contest of physical might that he lost. He hasn’t gone, though. He exists as the weapon, Giant Breaker. Having had his spine and skull ripped out, the devil-beast that defeated him forged this into a mace, with his conciousness trapped inside it. He can talk to the one that wields him, and only that one, and so a long time has passed to frustrate the cruel warlord. He talks, he advises, he sneers and urges for bloodshed. Even after all this time, he hasn’t changed.

The Lord of Fire and Pain was a powerful and sadistic devil-beast that visited a number of places around the world and inflicted terrible cruelties upon any he could. Not known for ruling a territory or commanding forces, the Lord of Fire and Pain was notable mostly for defeating strong opponents and killing them in as painful ways as he could. If dealing with lesser foes, he would simply feed them into fire, but as long as screams were sounding, he was satisfied. An important note here has to be that it was he that beat Lord Ogre and turned him into a weapon. It was a typical moment in his life of vicious rampaging. He did rule sometimes, he led forces as well, but mostly he did as he pleased, took on who he wanted to and broke them into bloody pieces. For this reason, the Sect of Shadow and Steel was hired to kill him, which they duly did.

Morrigan is remembered for a few reasons. She wasn’t just a very strong aegis who fought with great skill and determination, but she managed to bring peace and unity to Great Britain for the first time since it fell apart as a human nation. It was also the only time. She brought together excellent fighters and led them across the island until every foe was dealt with. After that, she ruled, with an elite guard of aegis warriors flying with her. Her skill wasn’t just at fighting. Part of her rise to power was due to a sceptre that she forged herself and spent years concentrating her own power into. In battle, it enabled her to unleash strong magic, and supposedly she took from defeated opponents over time to make it even stronger. Regardless of that, it was a major weapon and many wish they knew of its whereabouts in the present time. As for Morrigan herself, her rule ended in an ambush. She brought peace and unity to the island for a time, but she was also ruthless in her governance and made many enemies. She was betrayed, ambushed, killed with many of her guards, and violent mayhem returned to Great Britain.

Iron Claw was a devil-beast reputed as a strong and fierce warrior, first and foremost. He sought challenges and conquest. He also sought to use a fire sword, the weapon used by aegis only. For this, he cut off his hand and forged a magical one of iron. It didn’t work. His rage at this is said to have claimed many lives and possibly caused a volcano to erupt. While he is famous for a failure, he is also known for leading a fighting force that focused on strength and suppression, making his rule unopposable. This force remains, now a mercenary outfit of smaller number but with the same ruthless intent, operating from the Falkland Islands, which was once his seat of power. He, though, is long dead, not just defeated by the infamous Havoc, but beaten to death by his own iron claw.

Valentius was a creative and cruel human who was both a warrior of renown and a magic-user to be feared. Tall and strong, said to be very handsome, with cold eyes and a soft voice, he was a force to be reckoned with in Great Britain. According to legend, he gathered a band of warrior magic-users and they roamed across the island in search of power and glory. It is also claimed they left the island a few times. Valentius was not just a commander, but a creator. His power was rare among humans and he liked to use it to reshape. He sought to create new monsters, superior of course, and also devoted to him. He studied and experimented, and some claim he made certain abominations. However, his warband betrayed him. They sealed him in his chamber with magic and left, free to follow their own course. That chamber remains sealed to this day.

The Magician is an unknown. Simply put, he or she was a human scientist that created many technological wonders. The ease with which this individual made such things left many feeling it was more like magic than science, hence the nickname. Who this person was, why they were so talented, why they made what they did, when they were born – these are all questions without answer. It has been deemed likely the Magician lived before the Shadow World arrived, but nothing has been proven. What is almost ridiculous is that people don’t even know what this person is responsible for creating. Maybe the doom-rollers, maybe the Hell-Raisers, maybe the cyber-samurai, maybe something unique, maybe all droids and robotic races come from this genius. It is simply the name that has been passed on in whispers by those who seek to wield science. The Magician was the greatest, no one else comes close. The person and the products are lost in time, yet the name, the reputation remains for some, and most likely the products do still exist. Perhaps the Magician’s handiwork has yet to be truly revealed.

The Coven were about during the Raging, if their origins likely started with the arrival of magic in the world. They were new magic-users, strong too, so they banded together to delve into this fresh power. They sought to understand it fully but also to uncover the mysteries and wonders many believed were waiting for them. They practised magic now forbidden, such as possession and necromancy. Without question, they were a cult, creating a sense of secrecy and mystery about themselves, basing their reputation upon power and death. The Coven’s drive for greater power and deeper knowledge led them to consume themselves and the name now exists as a warning to all magic-users: certain truths must be left untouched.

Alpha and Omega were two human magic-users from long ago, known only by name and reputation. They ranked among the first magic-users and were a formidable duo during the Raging. It is said that not only were they very powerful in magic, but they were deeply religious and believed their purpose was to end everything. It is also suspected that they were disciples of Dylan Winter. That would explain much. However little is known for sure, barring that they were two incredibly strong and aggressive magic-users who sought the ruin of all the world. For this, many opposed them, and while most failed, enough stood to end their crusade.

The Beasts is a name that resides in rhymes and warnings among humans, a name rarely talked about but impossible to forget. They were a number of humans who were extraordinary during the Raging and no one knows why. Each of them was something special, either in physical prowess or magical might or both, and they terrorised and/or ruled parts of the world. Eventually, they were all defeated, but they were a major reason why humans weren’t overwhelmed by their enemies, and at the same time a stark example of the bizarre horror the Shadow World’s merging with our own could create. They were forces of nature, a shock surge as they all came to prominence in different parts of the world. Their like has never been seen since.

The Magi

More from the world of Sojourners in Shadow:

For many, monsters remain mysterious as well as deadly. Certain facts are known, while rumours and stories spread, regardless of truth. The more any interacts with a breed of monster, the more it is come to be understood, as with any race. But typically some secrets will be kept by a race. None wants to be vulnerable. Trust is very difficult to earn.

In no race of monsters is this as evident as the magi. While many monsters are steeped in fame and fear, even if the details are unknown, other types of being have a grasp on who and what they are. Devil-beasts, aegis and sphinx live a long time and are very powerful. This is clear. How long and how strong is much harder to determine. But magi? No one understands their nature. It is believed they live longer than most. Probably. Most think they reproduce and have made new magi, and yet no one knows when or how this occurred. Magi have perfected the way they seem to fully disguise what they truly are.

What is known about them is little, and even then some wonder. Magi can’t do magic. That’s a common fact, although some will claim they only pretend not to. After all, they grant wishes, and they can change shape. These are other known facts. What not all widely known is that magi have a particular form in every type of being they change into. Of course, the next question is do magi have their own unique form? A magi form. If so, no one knows what it is. They appear to be completely natural in any physique they take on, whether using the heat-vision of a writher, the superb hearing of a harbinger, the venom of a gleaner. But these are physical attributes. If a magi takes on the form of a deemi or wraith, they cannot then do magic, nor can they heal like a totem. Frustrating, but there it is. Magi shapeshift to pretend, hide and deceive, not to truly become those things, so the speculation remains about one true form of theirs, and yet, again, nothing – not one single rumour – exists.

Because the magi are excellent masters of disguise, none can be sure if any particular magi has always been that individual. For example, if you meet Dave the magi then perhaps this is that Dave of legend you have heard about, or perhaps not. Perhaps this is Dave but perhaps he was Fred and Bob in the past. Maybe he was even a Susan, except magi tend to stick or are stuck in one gender. Those who have more of an idea about magi than most – and they are few – know magi do tend to reuse names, so they can be tracked down, and there are certain qualities to these names. For instance, plant names abound. Even so, only magi know who is who for sure.

This is the problem I have in writing this post. Usually I write about a race or group or feature from the world’s perspective, then hint at more details from those in the know. This can’t be done here. The world’s view on magi is pretty much that they can’t do magic, they can change shape and they grant wishes. That’s it. They do have a reputation for being tricky and cunning, and in some places they are seen as liars and even bringers of bad luck. Others see them as wise counsellors. But little else can be said in the main besides general observations. As for those in the know, those who are close to magi and understand them, well, they don’t really exist. Yes, some know magi better than most, and they have some insights into them, but they don’t know the magi really. But the magi know them.

Here we get to the main issue of contention. Magi have been around since the Shadow World, and they certainly have got around. They have been advisers to rulers. They have been spies for enemy forces. They have helped to build kingdoms, even empires, and then assisted in ruining them. They have worked for devil-beasts and aegis and sphinx and humans and more, and they have brought them each down using different means. They have walked among communities, discussed with intellectuals, bargained with plotters and betrayed allies. They know about them all. Perhaps more than anyone realises.

One example of history should help. Once there was a great war occurring in Great Britain, the island of strong magic. There were three sides. One side was commanded by a brutal and strong devil-beast who had come from the Shadow World. Another was overseen by a family of devil-beasts, second and third generations. The third side was led by aegis, a group of friends, family and comrades. This war went on for some time and was peppered by skirmishes, battles, ambushes and murders. In this campaign, each side had a network of agents, and each was controlled by a clever and crafty individual. In other words, every side had a magi as the head of their intelligence.

What happened in this war? Let’s just say a lot that affects matters even now. But let me allow this one fact – a fact known to few by now – that the magi were highly influential in the outcome. Afterward, there were many powerful beings looking for the magi. Some still are. Having worked with others means those three are known to some people, but by names they no longer use, likely in forms they don’t stay in, and they will know those people too. Much better. They spied, they gathered information, they eliminated, and they communicated with each other in ways few would understand. They would be feared as much as they are hated, respected as much as they are sought for secrets.

Most will claim it is the nature of magi to be devious, duplicitous, conniving, enigmatic, charismatic, insightful, etc. But the magi themselves would argue that their nature has been defined to them by the world and those in it. They are hunted for their knowledge, skills and, of course, their ability to grant wishes. They have no magical power to defend themselves and their only physical attributes are those they possess when taking on another shape. They don’t seek power or rule, or at least they haven’t appeared to for the most part – it could be some great leader was a magi while pretending to be something else. But pretence at power is a high risk, even for them.

Now, those who have crossed paths with magi will argue how helpless they are. True, they lack their own power, but so do many. They can wield weapons and their knowledge of everyone else means they know how best to use which weapons against which races. They can infiltrate and assassinate like no other. Obviously shape changing isn’t easy and takes time, and yet there are always those more skilled than others. Basically, don’t ever underestimate magi.

Still, magi learned a harsh lesson long ago and it is a huge part of why they live the way they do. This is their secret past, something that occurred early on and is one of those important events lost in murky history. But the magi remember. Because it is their closely held secret I won’t divulge it here, just to say that the magi trusted humans and paid the price. I think we can all understand that.

Following on from that, I should mention population. This is another unknown. Magi are rare, but no one knows how few. So I’ll simply say they are very few, shockingly so, and a big part of that is due to what happened long ago. As I said, it was a harsh lesson, which led to a choice the magi made. A costly one. Now there is no going back. Keep hiding, keep learning, stay alert, and excel at subterfuge. Excel and survive at all costs.

In case you’re wondering how wishes work, understand that they strain the magi giving it and there are risks on both wisher and giver. But the results are incredible. No cheats, just chances. They can create out of nothing, destroy utterly, make dreams come true, and who knows what else. The limits seem to be placed solely on the will of the one who wants and the life, strength and ability of the magi granting the wish. But no magi can wish for themselves, not even grant another magi’s wish.

So you see, magi possess one of the greatest powers available, yet no power for themselves. What else can they do but be as evasive as possible, or as dangerously deceptive. It is the only way to survive. The only way to achieve anything.

How Has the Human Race Made it This Far?

A question many beings have pondered throughout the centuries since the Shadow World’s arrival concerns the continued existence of the human race. To be blunt, how the hell are humans not only still around, but in high numbers? The common claim is that the humans outnumber any other type of being, although there is no way of carrying out a worldwide census to confirm or deny this. But even so, there is no question humans are plentiful. In certain places they are the dominant group.

Not only this, but a further question many who have come to learn about the events that unfolded two and a half centuries ago, who know the origins of the races and factions, have had to wonder why those in power did what they did. After all, if it wasn’t for the leaders, rulers, generals, scientists, etc of the time, then many of those who now walk the earth would not be able to do so.

Essentially, the great question many have asked is why did those who could make choices back then make the ones they did, thus causing so much strife and danger for their own kind, and how have the humans managed to survive all the enemies that then sought them?

The short answer is a simple one. Basically so much chaos came from the Shadow World’s merging with our world, and the reactions to it, that it saved humanity from destruction. There was no single united force out to annihilate them. Monsters wanted terror and mayhem more than destruction, and not all of them sought that. Mutants and machines are often said to be the real downfalls of human civilisation, but even they weren’t unified into a focused army. Basically, everyone was fighting each other, including among the humans, so none were able to exterminate any of the major forces.

For those who ask these questions, this is the best answer they usually get. Most of the past is lost. Yet what if a reply could be made from back then? Because if they could, those who ran the world at the time – the leaders, the generals, the scientists – would defend themselves. They would say they didn’t act stupidly. The common perception is that those who took the reins of science and let it run wild had no idea what they were doing. But the counter point from then would be: yes, we made new races, but we ensured that they had defects and we planned ways to defeat them.

For one, super-soldiers were made to live short, brutal lives. Some were even made dependent on a substance and would wilt, even die off without it. Most never knew they needed it. Others were kept under tight control, watched over severely and drilled into being loyal. Also, they would be sent into the worst fighting while humans stayed safe. The death toll that could have ruined the human race beyond repair was limited as so many mutant lives were lost instead.

Super computers were made with protocols and always had a means to be turned off by a human. Usually manually. Humans made droids and other machines with similar safety measures. For all the warring and paranoia between the human groups, they feared what machines could become more and had strict laws on what could be made. Humans would try to make their droids better than their enemies, of course, but never crossed the unforgivable lines – never make an indestructible robot; no emotional programming; machines can learn but only to a degree and within certain fields of knowledge. Humans also tested droids to find out their weaknesses and develop ways to defeat them. Equipment was crafted to be specifically anti-droid. EMP bombs were stored safely and ready for use. Viruses were set to be unleashed at the first sign of insurgence.

How did it go wrong? The masters were killed off. The tight control kept on mutants and machines helped combat the supernatural invasion, but when those in command fell, the control itself weakened. Enough to make their servants get a glimpse into what was really going on and what they could become instead of cannon fodder and manual labour. All it took were a few renegades and rogues to create something they shouldn’t – far superior droids such as the cyber-samurai and less flawed mutants like the ultras – and things rapidly began to disintegrate.

But even so, the bulk of creations still contained weaknesses. Super-soldier armies rampaged and brought down cities and bases, yet most of these did so as they themselves were dying off. Machines rebelled but could be shut down at a transmitted command, although that left them still able to be reanimated. As things got worse, humans attacked each other via their control systems. One group might hack into a network and remove the protocols of a super computer so it would turn on its creators. Some humans were activists who freed mutants and machines to let them live, and many suffered for it. Even so, humans who knew their rebelling servants well could exploit weaknesses and did so as best they could, and survived as best they could. Scrambling devices prevented droids from targeting advancing human soldiers. Mutants ran out of ammunition sooner and lacked the knowledge or means to make more. Fresh machines and mutants were even made to fight the insurgents, which often created short term solutions for a longer problem.

While some did make more advanced mutants and machines as the laws and the means of enforcing them fell away, the bulk of the mutant and machine races had been made to serve. As the world plunged into the Raging, for all those seeking to end or enslave the human race, humanity remained the most numerous, best equipped and, at some places, the best organised and led. It took time after the shackles had come off for new leaders to emerge to rally and reorganise the new races. Of course, that meant they had to compete for overall rule. Which has been happening ever since.

Many in the world today will look back on those who ruled the world before the Shadow World’s appearance and the aftermath with contempt, if not outright hatred. They made the mistakes. They created the monsters of science that overthrew the world order. They acted in hubris and haste. In return, they would argue they kept humanity alive. They made the hard choices and did everything they could to keep the new beings in check. A counter point could be that the moment mutants and machines were created, there was no going back, that they would always have found a way to break free. Perhaps this is true. It would also be pointed out that if the humans had united then they could have prevailed, but many fought each other, seeing the growing mayhem as the perfect cover for settling old scores. With magic, humans became powerful as well. So it could be argued by the rulers and leaders of the time that nothing could have saved the world then, that the Shadow World’s introduction was the beginning of the end, as Dylan Winter had intended. But there is no escaping that their actions at the time led to much suffering – then and since and now – and while they may not have acted as recklessly or so arrogantly as many claim they did, they certainly set out on the path that has led everyone to where things are now, and there were definitely some among them who sought power over all else.

Humanity is to blame for much, but those humans who walk the world now will say they are the descendants of those who struggled and survived. Their world was invaded, their civilisations lost, they want revenge, and they think they can get it. Some bases contain humans with equipment to nullify machines as a threat or weapons powerful enough to slay super-soldiers. In other places, where humans lack these means, they evade and hide and outlast their foes. Monsters are often seen as superior to humans – stronger or faster or possessing some strange ability. Machines are creations to endure, learn and adapt, and many no longer have programmed defects or passwords to override them, or at least no one alive knows them to exploit them. Mutants are often stronger, more resilient, some born to fight, others for unique reasons. But it should never be forgotten who made who, and who ruled this world for so long, and who numbers the most. Humans are fighting for their home. Humans are a lot more tenacious than they get credit for. Some are brilliant, capable of feats of magic or science, and some are just born abnormally superior. They have survived what this world could throw at them for tens of thousands of years. Two centuries of monsters, mutants and machines is a blip on their timeline for them. Although, a very big and dangerous blip.

 

Here’s a link to one of the shorts about this world and those surviving within it:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/649736

What am I?

Another blog post to give information, background and general knowledge on the post-apocalyptic world featured in Sojourners in Shadow:

So a number of the defining aspects to being a person either no longer apply or are much harder to categorise in this post-apoc world, filled with creatures and creations. Things such as nationality, race, ethnicity and more have become muddled, forgotten about, changed, and yet to some still remain very important. There are no labels that work worldwide, although it could very strongly be claimed those don’t fit now. But this world is far more fractured, with some parts of it having no idea what even exists beyond the horizon. Genealogy is something many cannot trace back beyond a few generations. Racial and cultural history has no meaning for them, sometimes by choice, mostly by ignorance. The present is all that matters. Whatever group that is your group is everything you need to care about and all you need to care about. You don’t get to fuss about differences when your survival is dependent on people helping each other out.

Displacement has occurred in many places around the world, with people fleeing homes centuries ago and now residing in lands once thought far away. In Australia, you have Brits, Americans and Japanese co-existing in their respective colonies, alongside their hosts. Still, because of this, these all define themselves by their nationality, and the three white races have their issues with the single non-white race, and vice versa. In central Asia, many ethnicities have merged as the humans sought to survive, now forming a plethora of settlements across the plains. To these people, the idea of referring to anyone as ‘Asian’ is absurd, as they are all from there, yet four main racial groups do exist and generalised terms such as Arabian and Caucasian are now the norm. Some will define themselves more specifically, such as the famous Tsunami, who is purely Japanese, but most won’t bother – they have more important issues to deal with and they also know few others will care.

Fracturing has had a huge impact too. Nations dissolved, empires rose and then were thrown down. Russia split and soon many people deemed themselves to be Siberian. The U.S.A. slowly stretched and strayed, until the Pacific States and the Atlantic States were rivals, trading with different parts of the world. The United Kingdom ceased to exist and the Oligarchs ascended to command in Central Europe. When the Shadow World came and made so much worse, it also changed the Middle East, which became a battleground as humans who followed Islam, Judaism and Christianity united to defend it against those powerful monsters that sought to ravage these sacred lands and break their faith.

Religion itself has less hold of people’s identities while remaining a vital part of their lives. There are no central authorities to dictate how people should worship. No international figures to inspire or instruct. People keep their own faith and small communities tend to worship together, if at all. The main difference is among mutants. While many worship the gods of the humans, a significant number worship the mutant god, Gilgamesh. They await their saviour, believing he will one day hand the world over to them. Seeing as he is a incredibly powerful mutant currently contained in a dormant state, this may well happen.

Mutants have impacted on the racial identities too. Many designed mutants were created not to look the same as their creators or the community they were made to defend. People wanted different looking super soldiers – partly to prevent too much unity, partly because diversity was often seen as necessary. But also, some authorities wanted a force that felt detached from those around them, so that it could be turned on them if need be. Therefore a number of created mutants were soon walking the earth, part of a certain race and yet having no real lasting ties to that race or its past which defines it.

So in many ways defining someone racially or ethnically is really only done to help describe someone. Usually physically, but perhaps wishing to give some kind of insight into who and what they are as well, and how they may behave or see certain things. Racism still exists, of course, but it has much less meaning and more often is contained in ignorant comments. If one racial group dominates, then there tends to be some casual contempt or distrust for those who look different, but it rarely goes beyond that unless they feel threatened as well. In the Octagon State, where eight underground bases have survived and most of their inhabitants are white, there is a sense of being better than those not white, yet such is their dominance and such is their vicious war with super-soldiers, that there is rarely persecution. In the Northern Federation, where cities have prevailed amidst the magically-charged jungles of Africa, everyone is black, and yet some may have a slightly lighter tone to their skin, suggesting an ancestor or two from another race. This is never a cause for outright contempt, yet it may raise some notice and perhaps some jokes, as Ensign Ali finds from his low ranking crewmates, Chisel and Wrench.

Nationality is perhaps the weakest label to remain. People will often refer to themselves as coming from a place, but that is all the name means to them. Being British means you live in the British Isles or in New Britannia, in Australasia, and while the latter has more sense of identity and history, the inhabitants of the once United Kingdom are more defined by what village they live in or what master or guardian they answer to. Even with the colony in Australasia, many Britons move around, especially spreading further into the central and wilder area, as do the Americans and Australians, so nationalism makes way for new and more independent identities.

The ways of the world before the collapse, before the Shadow World, have little meaning to those who live in it. Most of them have no knowledge of what went before them. Nations and races can have a degree of importance for many, but it rarely keeps people from uniting to survive when they have to. Monsters work together and so do the various types of mutants. The numerous threats to humanity means it cannot afford the luxury of bigotry. Hate people for any reason you want, but save your utmost hatred for those trying to kill you.

So how do people define themselves? Cyborgs do so by sect. Monsters by tribe or clan or pack, etc. Even then, there are always those exceptions to the rule. For most humans, if they have to declare a racial identity, it is usually whatever they mostly are. If three grandparents are from Argentina and one is from Yemen, then typically you forgo specific locations and degrees of heritage and simply say you are Hispanic. Even then, many around the world would have no idea what that meant, let alone the differences that can create between people. Perhaps you wouldn’t either. The truth is many people around the world can’t say for sure if they are 100% anything, even if they look it. They may use national, racial, ethnic and cultural labels, but rarely is anything an undisputed fact in this world.

The essential truth is most people around the world will see another person’s differences, may even be suspicious of them, but typically they will wonder if this is someone that can harm them or if they will be the victor, and what could be gained by killing this individual. If nothing, then perhaps an alliance is in order. It’s true that keeping to your own is the safer bet, yet someone’s own has become redefined by the standards of the time and even then, sometimes you will have to take a risk.

The Sicilian Briton

I finally found my history book, the Age of Arthur, by John Morris. I read this a long time ago, a very good read, but one individual and his words stood out.

The Sicilian Briton was an unknown monk who wrote about the unfairness of wealth versus poverty and ranted against the rich and powerful. Considering the mood of today, I find his words even more pertinent. I’m not convinced I agree with everything he has said, but here are some lines that really strike home and could apply to any time period. Ours especially.

“Listen to your rich man calling your poor man ‘wretch’, ‘beggar’, ‘rabble’, because he dares to open his mouth in ‘our’ presence, because in his rags he reproaches ‘our’ morality and conduct, … as if the rich alone had a right to speak, as if the understanding of truth were a function of wealth, not of thought.”

I loved this next bit as he called out the hypocrisy of rich Christians, who sought to wriggle out of Jesus’ comparison of a rich man with a camel.

” ‘But,’ you say, ‘it does not mean a camel, which cannot possibly pass through a needle’s eye, but a camelus, which is a kind of ship’s hawser.’ What intolerable subtlety when human greed … grasps at the names of ropes to keep its earthly wealth! It is a rotten argument that will do the rich no good. As if it were easier to get a huge rope through the needle’s eye than that well known animal the camel! If you want an excuse to live estranged from heaven’s throne with an easy mind … ships are no good to you, with their huge great fittings. You had better try the weaving trade, and search for some kind of thread called camelus. Such idiocy may amuse men … but it will carry little weight with God.”

He wrote with such passion. A shame we know so little of him. He was a potent enemy of the powerful and caused a lot of agitation at the time, especially with his slogan ‘abolish the rich’. Pretty surprising that hasn’t been reclaimed by protestors today. The sentiment is the same, though.